The Washington Post
What Does China Think?by Mark Leonard
We know everything and nothing about China. We know that China is changing so fast that the maps in Shanghai need to be redrawn every two weeks. We know that China has brought 300 million people from agricultural backwardness into modernity in just thirty years, and that its impact on the global economy is growing at unprecedented speed. We have an image of China
We know everything and nothing about China. We know that China is changing so fast that the maps in Shanghai need to be redrawn every two weeks. We know that China has brought 300 million people from agricultural backwardness into modernity in just thirty years, and that its impact on the global economy is growing at unprecedented speed. We have an image of China as a dictatorship; a nationalist empire that threatens its neighbors and global peace.
But how many people know about the debates raging within China? What do we really know about the kind of society China wants to become? What ideas are motivating its citizens? We can name America's neo-cons and the religious right, but cannot name Chinese writers, thinkers, or journalistswhat is the future they dream of for their country, or for the world? Because China's rise like the fall of Rome or the British Rajwill echo down generations to come, these are the questions we increasingly need to ask. Mark Leonard asks us to forget everything we thought we knew about China and start again. He introduces us to the thinkers who are shaping China's wide open future and opens up a hidden world of intellectual debate that is driving a new Chinese revolution and changing the face of the world.
The Washington Post
Commonly characterized as a juggernaut monomaniacally focused on breakneck economic growth, China is actually riven by a lively, far-reaching debate over its future, argues this inquisitive study. Leonard (Why Europe Will Run the 21st Century) divides Chinese intellectuals into a New Right that wants to extend laissez-faire market reforms and an increasingly influential New Left that decries rising inequality, corruption and environmental destruction and wants a strong government to rein in capitalist elites and protect workers. Meanwhile, political reformers push cautiously for local and Communist Party elections against a consensus that associates democracy with chaotic mob rule or national dismemberment. China's foreign policy is split between liberal internationalists and truculent "neo-comms" who contend that China must be ready to use force against its enemies. The author notes that these ideological divisions resemble those in Western countries, but emphasizes the distinctiveness of Chinese ideas, like the concept of the "deliberative dictatorship" of a one-party state that stays responsive to popular pressures, or a "Walled World" where globalization enhances rather than erodes the autonomy of national governments. Leonard's is a lucid, eye-opening account of China's intellectual scene and its growing importance to the world. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Leonard (executive director, Open Society Inst. for Europe) argued in his Why Europe Will Run the 21st Century that the American Century based on "hard power" will give way to a European Century based on "soft power." Figuring in that process that China could be either a key partner or deadly adversary, Leonard became an "accidental Sinologist." He writes of smoking Cuban cigars in Beijing and debating with policy intellectuals whose arguments fell into several groups that he labels in the text. The "New Left" accepts the market system but advocates democracy and government welfare programs, while "Yellow River Capitalists" want to let a new capitalist class set priorities. What Leonard elsewhere wittily calls "Neo-Comms" mirror the American "neo-cons." Unlike the first two groups, whose focus is domestic, the "Neo-Comms" push a great power strategy of military expansion, aggressive cultural diplomacy, and hard-nosed international law. Leonard vaunts China's present model of economic growth and political control, downplaying its authoritarianism, but argues that we need to appreciate Chinese debates, which will shape future policies. Libraries with substantial world affairs collections should add this astute and lucid book.
Charles W. Hayford
- HarperCollins Publishers
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Meet the Author
Mark Leonard is Executive Director of the Open Society Institute for Europe. He is formerly Director of Foreign Policy at the Centre for European Reform and the director of the Foreign Policy Centre. A regular commentator in the world's leading newspapers and journals, he lives in London
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